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Heroes Never Die

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 "I’ll be your keeper for life as your guardian
I’ll be your warrior of care, your first warden"

~ Alanis Morissette, "Guardian"


Present


 

It had taken years for her to track him down.

Caroline watched as he held out a hand over the dead woman at his feet, an orb of twisting smoke floating from her chest and into his hand. She flinched as he crushed it in his palm, making a soft sound of contentment before he turned to look at her.

He looked like he hadn’t aged a day, though she was struck by how much paler his face was, the deep blue of his eyes much more prominent against his skin. The only sound in the winter air was the gears in her Valkyrie suit clicking as she let the mechanical wings withdraw, and she stiffened at the way he looked at her, the mix of fear and anger swirling in his gaze speaking volumes. She took a hesitant step towards him. He remained still as she approached, watching her with a calculating gaze. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost, sweetheart.”

 


Ten years ago...


 

“It’s nice to have you on the team, Doctor Forbes.”

Commander Salvatore was tall with a strong jaw and kind eyes, and Caroline gave him a small smile as she shook his hand. “Thank you,” she said softly, still taking in the room around her.

She’d been confused when Representative Saltzman had contacted her to join Overwatch, an international military partnership that fought to protect human life from the Omnic Crisis. She was regarded as a scientific genius by most in her field, having earned her medical degree by the age of twenty, but even after three years of post-grad field work she still often felt like she didn’t quite belong, that no matter how much her knowledge and willingness to learn was lauded the other scientists still thought of her as a child.

Initially she’d been hesitant when the job was offered to her, wondering if she’d end up doing the same thing but in secret, but once Representative Saltzman had told her that she’d be doing her own medical research, promising her access to the latest technology and an enormous budget in exchange for working part-time consulting at the hospital and the occasional venture as a field medic, she eagerly agreed. It was her chance to do research without being condescended to by well-meaning scientists in lab coats that had ‘daughters just her age’.

Now that she’d been flown to the main Overwatch base in Switzerland to begin her work, she’d been introduced to about seven different people, and was having difficulty keeping all the names straight. “Only one more for you to meet,” Representative Saltzman said, checking his watch, and Commander Salvatore laughed.

“Klaus, you mean?” he asked. “He’s on a mission with a few of the troops, actually. We don’t expect him back for another few hours.”

“We made good time,” a smooth, accented voice said from behind her. Caroline flinched in surprise, turning to face the speaker. He was pulling what seemed like an endless amount of small weapons from various pockets, dumping them all in a pile on the table by the door before standing and running a hand through his hair. Every movement he made, from the flex of his fingers when he set down a knife to the easy way he shifted his weight screamed that he was much more dangerous than the pretty package might lead her to believe.

She shifted as his sights landed on her, bright blue eyes raking up and down her form before a small smile curled on his lips.

“I’m Doctor Caroline Forbes,” she introduced when he made no move to speak to her.

“Klaus Mikaelson. Director of Covert Operations and in no need of your assistance. Salvatore, mate, I need you for a briefing.”

“You might want to be a little nicer, considering that I’m running the hospital and someday you might get injured and ‘need my assistance’,” Caroline said, resisting the urge to add air quotes.

Klaus raised his eyebrows, tilting his head to the side, and she could tell that she’d surprised him somehow, that he was intrigued. “Is that a threat, love?”

“Not at all, but triage can be hard, especially in stressful situations,” she said, giving him a saccharine smile. “And I prefer Doctor Forbes.”

The energy crackled between them as they stared at each other, and eventually Klaus gave her an amused, dimpled smile before turning to look at Commander Salvatore. “My office in a quarter hour. It’s urgent.”

Commander Salvatore nodded, waiting until Klaus had shut the door before turning back to Caroline. “Don’t be offended. He’s like that with everyone,” he said, and Caroline shrugged.

“I don’t care. It doesn’t make it okay.”

The commander looked like he was torn between horror and amusement before seeming to let it go, nodding once. “I’ll leave you to it. Ric can show you where the research center is. The hospital is in the same building. We can order everything you need if you can make us a list.”

“Thank you Commander.”

“You can call me Stefan.”

“Okay.”

Director Saltzman led her to the research center as promised, and she huffed when she walked in, finding that the hospital was outfitted with only the basics and the research center with even less. Sighing, she found some paper and a pen and began the long process of making lists of supplies they needed.

She was distracted though; for some reason, no matter how much she tried to concentrate on taking inventory she couldn’t stop her mind wandering back to the covert operations director. He’d been more than a little irritating, and based on that first impression she wasn’t exactly looking forward to seeing him around the base, but something about the way he looked at her made her skin prickle, though she wasn't sure whether it was because she was nervous or intrigued. Maybe both?

 

XXX

 

Caroline shifted as the metal of her newest creation twisted around her skin, fitting snugly but not too tight. She experimentally raised her arm, smiling in satisfaction when she felt a warm charge under her skin. “What are you doing, love?”

She flinched, whirling around, and saw Klaus behind her, his hands clasped behind his back as he observed her reaction, his head slightly tilted.

She managed to gather herself quickly. “Finishing my latest project.”

“What is it?”

“I call it the Valkyrie suit,” she said, rolling her shoulders in the movement the suit would detect as the activation for her wings to extend. Klaus watched as they unfurled, the metal smoothly extending. “Being able to fly will help me heal soldiers more efficiently in the field.”

“In the field?”

“Yeah. For the last few months Stefan has been asking me to come on some of the riskier missions just in case, and I’m happy to help. I was just trying to design something to make me a little safer in combat.”

He watched as she bent to pick up her newly-designed staff from the table, and she had the sneaking suspicion that he was staring at her ass. When she turned around to look however, he was determinedly focused on the wall. “Are you sure you’re suited for that, love? It’s a bit dangerous.”

She stared at him, trying to work out whether she’d rather call him out on his misogyny, condescension, or use of an endearment to refer to a colleague, but before she could get her biting retort out, he’d already moved on to looking at the plans on the table. “Does this even have a holster for a weapon?”

“No. I don’t need one.”

“I won’t allow you on my team if you don’t have a weapon to defend yourself with.”

“Tough. Stefan wants me on the team, so—”

“You’ll find that Stefan doesn’t have the sway in the Blackwatch that you seem to believe he does.”

She pursed her lips, unmoved. “I don’t believe in war or hurting people. When I came here I was very clear with Representative Saltzman about that, and he said I’d only be going with you in case people got injured. No murder required.”

“He lied,” Klaus said with a shrug, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “I’ll get you a gun.”

“I don’t want a gun.”

“Tough,” he said with a wink, and she gritted her teeth, turning away. He was infuriating, always seeming to bring out the most stubborn and exasperated pieces of her while remaining interesting enough to banter with that she could never quite manage to bring herself to push him away.

In the past few months, she’d found that he was almost fun to be around when he wasn’t being an arrogant ass. When she was tempted to go out of her way to spend time with him, she kept having to remind herself of the countless warnings other people at the base had given her when they saw how Klaus acted around her. According to everyone else, Klaus was concealing his selfish, bad-tempered personality in order to get his playboy claws in her pants.

Well, that description was actually Bonnie’s words verbatim, but the rest of the base seemed to share her opinion.

“You can bring it, but I won’t use it,” she said firmly.

“You’ll have to at least know how to fire one. I’ll teach you, if you’d like.”

A solid ‘no’ was on the tip of her tongue before she swallowed it back, inwardly smirking, deciding to nip these useless ‘learning to use weapons’-shenanigans-slash-obvious come-ons in the bud. “Fine, but you have to leave me alone once I get the hang of it.”

He was grinning, his dimples cutting into his cheeks, and she found herself wondering whether everyone else could be wrong and that he may actually like her . Her heart skipped a beat, and she felt a bit off-balance, suddenly not quite sure of whether she’d be opposed if he did.

She gave herself a mental shake, telling Klaus she’d meet him at the shooting range in an hour and to get out . He gave her another infuriating smirk and she turned back to the lab table.

She threw herself into testing her new creation until she had to leave. She flexed her fingers as she walked to the practice range, not looking forward to the familiar feeling of a gun recoiling in her hand, and resolved to get the whole thing over with as quickly as possible.

“Caroline, love,” he greeted as she approached, and she fought down a laugh at the tiny blaster he held out to her.

To be fair, she had given him the impression that she’d never shot a gun in her life, and it was definitely the kind of weapon she would give to a beginner. At least he seemed to genuinely be trying to help. “It’s quite small, but I thought you’d like to get used to it.”

“Thanks,” she said, reaching out to take the blaster.

“So, first thing you should know,” he began as she weighed the weapon in her hand. “Is to always treat the gun as though it’s—”

In one fluid movement, she planted her feet and raised the weapon, firing a shot between the eyes of the mannequin on the other side of the range.

“—loaded,” he finished dryly. “I see you’ve misled me.”

“I didn’t mislead. You assumed,” she said, trying not to sound too smug. “I’d like a Caduceus Blaster 3X-T please, preferably in blue, but white is fine. Gotta run, but thanks for the lesson.”

She almost expected him to be angry, but instead he seemed amused, perhaps even a bit impressed. “I’ll see you tomorrow then, Caroline,” he said.

The way her name rolled off of his tongue made her shiver, and she tried not to ruin her dramatic exit with a blush as she turned to leave.

“Your call sign is Mercy,” he added. “I’ll have someone bring you a communicator.”

She turned around, an eyebrow raised. “Mercy? Seriously? Who chose that?”

“Someone who clearly doesn’t know you very well,” he said dryly, and she grinned, turning to walk away.

 

XXX

 

“It’s okay. You’re fine. I’m here. You’re doing great,” Caroline said softly as she pulled the last bullet out of the thigh of one of their agents, who was sprawled on the concrete. “I just need to wrap you up now, okay?”

“Thanks,” he said gruffly, and Caroline gave him an encouraging smile as she went through her medical kit to find the medicated bandages.

“How is he, love?”

“He’s fine,” she said without looking up, carefully wrapping the cloth around the man’s leg. She was determined not to interact with him too much, knowing that she was growing too attached. Since she’d begun going on missions with him, she’d realized that not only had her instincts been correct about Klaus being dangerous, she also might have underestimated him, just a little.

She’d often seen him kill without batting an eyelash, looking away disinterestedly as the corpse fell to the ground. The first time she’d witnessed it, the man he murdered had been advancing on her as she cared for a fallen agent. She’d felt the world press around her when she heard the gunshot and the splat of bullet meeting flesh, the scream ripped from the man’s throat making her shiver. It was her town being torn apart by the war all over again, and she gritted her teeth as she tried to center herself. Klaus had nudged the man’s body to the side with his boot to approach her more easily and calmly bent to sit beside her, his hand pressing soothingly against the small of her back until she calmed and was able to return to her patient.

It wasn’t until she’d arrived back at her small apartment later that night when she realized that even after watching him murder a man like it was nothing, she had still trusted him to comfort her, and it scared her.

He was still looming over her now as she finished binding the agent’s wound, and she huffed, looking up at him. “What?” she asked irritably before she registered what she was looking at. “Oh my god! What happened to you?”

“It’s not mine,” he said simply, wiping some blood off of his nose with the equally bloody back of his hand, and she felt nausea swirl in her gut.

“That’s so much blood,” she breathed.

“Never thought you’d be squeamish, Doctor Forbes.”

“I’m not,” she snapped, unable to stop staring at the way his clothes were practically soaked with it, the red liquid smeared across most of the skin that was showing. “I’m just...how?”

“Do you really want to know?” he asked warily, and she immediately shook her head.

“No. Don’t tell me.”

“All right.”

They were both still as Caroline continued to stare, trying to push down her curiosity, and the silence was abruptly broken by the soldier. “Um, can I go now?”

Caroline shook herself, running a hand through her hair. “Oh! Yeah. Sure. You’re all set.”

The soldier pushed off the ground, the wonders of technology having done their job so well that he wasn’t even favoring his uninjured leg.

She watched him go before turning back to Klaus, wincing again at the amount of blood. “How many?” she asked, unable to stifle her curiosity.

“Four,” he drawled, his lips twitching.

“How can you be so casual about killing people?”

“How can you be so casual about wanting to leave those murderers alive?”

“If you kill them, you’re also a murderer,” she said quietly. “You just have a faster draw.”

“It’s necessary for what we’re doing.”

“I’d buy that for some, but not for this many. If you didn’t prolong their suffering there’s no way you could have ended up covered in this much blood.”

“Perhaps I enjoy it.”

“That’s disgusting,” she said with a curl of her lip.

“Are you going to check on my soldiers or continue scolding me for things already over with?”

She gritted her teeth, standing. “Have we almost finished the mission? It might be easier to take the injured to the hospital, depending on severity.”

He nodded, holding out a hand to help her stand, and she took it without thinking, leaning down to pick up her medical kit once she was up.

“That looks heavy.”

She shrugged. “It’s not that bad.”

“I can carry it if you’d like.”

“So that you can smear the blood of people you killed all over it? No thanks.”

He glanced pointedly down at her hand that wasn’t holding the medical kit, the one she’d given him to help her up, and she followed his gaze. Shining red blood was streaked across her palm, and she swallowed. “You didn’t stop me,” Klaus said quietly, the double-meaning of his words heavy in the air, and she looked up from the evidence of his kills smeared on her skin to see him looking at her, his head slightly cocked to the side.

She knew she had a part in it, standing by and healing the people who killed, but Overwatch’s goal was peace, and she could convince herself that as long as the deaths were not needless, the ends justified the means.

Still, there was blood on her hands.

“Just try to keep it to a minimum,” she said, holding his gaze, and a small smirk twisted his face.

“For you, sweetheart? I’ll try to resist the urge to torture before I put them out of their misery.”

“How do you not feel guilt for this?”

“I’m a high-functioning psychopath. Haven’t you heard?”

“Multiple times, but I don’t believe it.”

“Perhaps you should.”

“I think that you care, even if you try not to,” she said quietly, rolling her shoulders as though she could shake off the memory of what she’d done. “You feel every kill weigh on you, deep deep down, but having someone’s life in your hands makes you feel so powerful that you can’t shake the rush it gives you. Every time you feel the guilt, you just take another hit to remind yourself that you’re more powerful than the ghosts of your actions.”

His face was unreadable, though his body was stiff, and she knew she’d hit the nail on the head.

“How?” he asked quietly, and she nervously tucked a lock of hair behind her ear, flashes of the bleeding corpses of her family’s murderers still burned into her mind like a brand, the memory of how much she’d liked watching them suffer still making her stomach twist with nausea.

“You were right,” she said quietly. “Whoever gave me my call sign didn’t know me at all.”

He raised an eyebrow, but she walked away from him, her knuckles white around the handle of her medical kit. She tried not to think about how well she understood him, how the temptation had nearly overtaken her more than once. Despite her best efforts, she was falling for Klaus, and she knew it. He offered her something that she doubted anyone else ever would: understanding.

He saw her faults, even before her confession just minutes before, and it was nice to have someone not put her on a pedestal. It was nice to not have to face the disgust she knew would be present in anyone else’s eyes, because she was already weighed down with guilt without the help of anyone else’s scorn.

She knew she should be concerned that she was tempted to fall into the arms of a monster like him. Still, she knew he’d never blame her for the darkest parts of herself, and that would be...freeing.

She swallowed, pulling herself back to the present. She had people to save, even if it would never absolve her guilt.

 

XXX

 

“Klaus, you're being ridiculous,” Caroline muttered.

“You nearly died.”

“Do you know how many times you’ve nearly died on a mission since I started going?”

“No, because unlike you, I had a perfectly functioning support agent to patch me up. You have no one to take care of you if you go down.”

“I have you, and I think you did fine. It was a bit closer than usual, but he’s definitely very dead,” she said lightly.

“And if I hadn’t been there, what would have happened?”

“It’s your team, Klaus. You’re always there.”

“You’re missing the point, love—”

“I think I’m getting the point just fine, thanks,” Caroline said, taking a sip of her coffee and trying to resist the urge to excuse herself to get more poundcake from the bakery counter. “You’re concerned because there was nearly an accident on the mission. However, not only did you intervene when it happened, but there is almost no chance it would have been fatal. I appreciate your concern, but you’re not going to stop me from doing my job.”

“If I recall correctly, your job is a researcher, not a field medic.”

“It’s still a part of my job,” she said calmly. “Yes, my research takes priority, but it’s important to contribute if I have free time.”

He pressed his lips together, clearly considering something, and she braced herself for another round of debate before he spoke, making it clear that there was no need. “Fine.”

Fine?! ” she repeated incredulously.

“What, do you want me to disagree?”

“No,” she said immediately, ignoring the tiny part of her that kind of wished he’d fought a bit harder. “It’s not your choice anyway.”

“That’s true,” he said, taking another sip of his tea before changing the subject. She couldn’t focus, every instinct she had blaring that this argument was far from over and that he was biding his time.

Klaus’s angle became clear the next day when Tyler, one of his subordinates, arrived with a binder that he explained was a research proposal. She took it, telling him she’d get back to Klaus later that day, and opened the binder to fifty pages proposing a long-term project to create about three hundred “upgrades” for the field.

Seriously!? ” she hissed to the empty room as she came upon the phrase “self-wrapping bandages” on page two, and by the time she got to “socks with adjustable thickness for harshly cold climates” on page seven, she was fuming.

Her fury built steadily as she read through the paper, and by the time she got through the first ten pages she was frustrated enough with the bogus research backing up the suggestions that she uncapped a red pen to circle the false medical facts and correct them, starting most of her responses with “WELL, ACTUALLY...”

In all caps.

She was not pleased.

By the time she arrived at Klaus’s office door two hours later, she wasn’t sure it would be possible to be any angrier, but when she saw the shit-eating grin on his face, she knew she’d been wrong. “What. Is. This?”

“A detailed proposal advocating for necessary upgrades to the medical facilities to better support our troops. It says so in the ‘objective’ portion on the first page. Have you read it?”

“Thoroughly,” she growled, dropping it on his desk with a thump. “And I will be researching exactly none of these.”

“It’s been approved already, sweetheart.”

“Who did you bribe?” she snapped, making a mental note to make whatever board member it was’s life miserable until the end of time.

“Classified,” he said with a grin.

“Well, get whoever it is to un-approve it.”

“Afraid not. These changes are necessary, you see.”

“They are not,” she bit out. “You are trying to keep me in the lab so that I’m not in the field, and it’s wrong. I have literally never felt so disrespected in my life, and I did my internship at a practice with three people twice my age who all tried to get me to date their sons.”

“Caroline--”

“Don’t. This is shitty and horrible and wrong on so many levels, and, in case you can’t tell, I’m furious .”

“I did get an inkling of that, yes.”

“What is your problem?” she demanded. “Why do you want to keep me out of the field? You don’t bat an eyelash any time Stefan or Marcel go, and I’m just as good a shot, if not better.”

He seemed to not know what to say, and she smirked, knowing that her argument was logically sound. She expected him to make another bullshit excuse or lash out so that he wouldn’t have to admit that he was worried, but she was taken aback when he didn’t. He folded his hands together and gave her a look that indicated that whatever he was about to say, he was not joking. “I care about you,” he said softly, simply.

The words shouldn’t have surprised her. He showed her that he cared constantly with little gestures or favors, but there was something about Klaus outright admitting it that caught her off-guard. “Yeah, but you care about Marcel and Stefan too,” she said, trying to keep her voice confident. “We’re your friends.”

“Don’t pretend that you don’t know that I’ve fancied you since the day we met, Caroline.”

“Of course I know,” she said before she thought about it. “But that’s not the point.”

He flinched at her blatant dismissal of his confession, but she couldn’t find it in herself to feel bad. “Isn’t it?”

“No! If you know me at all you know that I’d never let anyone trap me like this.”

“Of course I know.”

“Then why do it?” she demanded. “It’s not like you thought I’d just let you keep me locked up in my lab without a fight.”

“Not at all. Have mercy on a man who dared to hope that you’d make the choice to stay safe.”

“This is not the time for callsign puns,” she snapped.

“Ah, yes. My apologies. We’ll return to me admitting my feelings for you while you brush them aside, shall we?”

“First of all, I don’t owe you emotional cushion for admitting your good taste, and it’s not like you didn’t know I like you . I appreciate you giving me the time to admit it to myself or whatever, but the point of this conversation is that you’re trying to prevent me from going on missions to save lives, which, in case it somehow slipped your mind, is literally my job .”

He let out a sharp breath, leaning back in his chair and steepling his fingers. “Fair enough,” he said softly.

She watched him as he seemed to make a decision before standing abruptly and walking around the desk to stand uncomfortably close to her. She met his eyes, her lips parted slightly, her breath catching. “What are you doing?”

“Can I bargain for only significant missions?” he asked as he stopped in front of her, his gaze serious and hard. “I trust you to take care of yourself, Caroline, but I’d also like you not to have to.”

She tried to figure out what had changed in the air, when his gaze had turned from angry to concerned. It was an odd feeling, that whiplash of his emotions, the certainty of his affection for her. She leaned closer without thinking about it, knowing that she was probably giving in too easily, though she didn’t resist when he cupped her cheek, leaning into his touch. “Fine. Just significant missions, as long as you aren’t an ass about which ones count. It’s the honor system, okay? This is my choice.”

He nodded once, and she held his gaze as she felt anticipation build within her, the crackle of energy prickling under her skin as her mind raced, wondering if they were about to take the plunge, to really commit to what they’d been dancing around for the past year. She was answered when she leaned forward just enough to give him the hint and he bent to press his lips to hers.

It was better than she’d imagined, his lips moving perfectly against hers in a way that made her toes curl, his tongue slipping between her lips to run along the back of her teeth, curling against the roof of her mouth. She arched her back as his fingers nimbly undid the buttons of her lab coat, helping her shrug it off, her nipples stiff and sensitive against the fabric of her bra. His hands seemed to be everywhere at once, branding the skin of her shoulders and thighs with the tips of his fingers, his touch making her limbs feel like jelly. She threaded his necklaces between her fingers, tugging them and savoring the low groan in his throat as he ground his rapidly hardening cock against her thigh through the rough fabric of his jeans.

Her cheeks were hot, the tension and crackle of energy that she expected to melt away when she gave in only swelling as she felt her body respond to his touch. She already ached for friction between her legs, and she moaned as he slid a hand under the skirt of her sundress, running the tip of his finger over the waistband of her thong.

She moaned as he tugged the lace to rub against her pussy, feeling breathless and desperate, and tipped her head to the side so that he could nip the sensitive skin of her shoulder. A shiver ran down her spine at the feel of his tongue and teeth against her skin as his fingers teased her through the lace barrier that she ached for him to remove.

That was when she caught sight of the clock on his wall.

“Klaus,” she breathed, her head tipping back against the wall as he nipped her neck. “I have work to do.”

She expected him to try to convince her to stay, to give her an excuse to slump against the wall and let him touch her until she felt heavy and sated, but instead she felt him smile against her skin before he pulled back. His eyes were dark with lust, his lips slightly swollen, and he pressed a soft kiss to her lips. “Fine, then. Have a lovely afternoon toiling away. If you change your mind, however, I’d love to see if you look as lovely bent over my desk with your knickers stretched between your legs in reality as you do in my fantasies.”

She flushed, narrowing her eyes. She saw what he was doing, making it so that she had to admit how much she wanted him. If she walked away, she’d be hot and bothered all afternoon, but unable to come back to him without seeing that stupid smug smirk. She was wet and empty and seriously tempted to give in, but she shook her head, letting  her tongue skate over her swollen lips. “Well, I’d like to see whether you look as good on your knees for me with your face between my thighs as you do in my fantasies, but I guess we can’t always get what we want.”

“You fantasize about me?” he asked, a smirk spreading across his face. “What other dirty secret desires do you hold in that lovely mind of yours?”

“Ones that you won’t know until I’m not as busy. Unfortunately, someone bribed an Overwatch board member to make me have to work on all of these very important upgrades, and if I have to do all of them, I think I’m going to be too busy to spend time doing anything for the next year. If only someone could fix that...”

He grinned, bending to kiss her again, tugging her lower lip between his teeth, the sting making her pussy clench. “I’ll see what I can do,” he said as he pulled back, her breath catching.

“Also, don’t think I didn’t see what you did there,” she said, her hands skating up his chest to tangle his necklaces between her fingers. “Making staying home from less important missions seem more reasonable by sending a completely unrealistic opener was smart, but totally manipulative. Do a little work, and I might forgive you enough to let us both get what we want.”

Chapter Text


 "I’ll be your angel on call, I’ll be on demand
The greatest honor of all as your guardian"

~ Alanis Morissette, "Guardian" 


Present


 

“What happened to you?” Caroline breathed, reaching to cup his cheek. He was so pale, so different from the memory of when she’d last seen him, though it did nothing to stop every inch of her from craving him.

He jerked away before she could make contact, his eyes flashing, and she froze as he took a step back, his posture stiff. “You tell me, Doctor .”

He spat the last word, his voice bitter, almost mocking, and her heart clenched. “This isn’t what...I didn’t mean to...I’m so sorry.”

“You knew exactly what you were doing, Caroline.”

“I was trying to save you.”

“I suppose you succeeded, though I do wish that you’d been a bit more thoughtful about how I’d stay intact.”

“There wasn’t exactly time to deeply consider all of our options.”

He was quiet, watching her with a judgmental expectancy that she associated with doing risky things on missions, and she found herself unable to take the silence, needing to give him more of an explanation. “You were dying, Klaus. I couldn’t...” she trailed off, swallowing, and his eyes softened.

“You couldn’t lose me,” he finished, his lips twitching. “Selfish little thing, aren’t you?”

“I’m a protector of the innocent, and at the time I didn’t think you’d be surviving off innocent people,” she said defensively.

His amused smile felt out of place in the conversation, and she crossed her arms protectively over her chest, trying to gather her composure. “What, then? You thought I’d be leading the Blackwatch like this, then, love? Feeding off criminals, perhaps? Did you think you were doing a service to the world, creating a monster like me?”

“You’re not a monster, Klaus,” she breathed, regret settling even deeper in her bones as she remembered her reaction just after he woke all those years ago.

He hummed, breaking eye contact and shifting his weight from foot to foot before breathing out sharply. The movement was so familiar that it almost made her smile. It brought back memories of long conversations in his utilitarian apartment after she’d finished at the hospital for the day, the way he’d fought down his amused smiles as she meticulously patched him up after missions, muttering obscenities and scolding him under her breath for being so reckless when she found anything particularly bad.

“Do you truly believe that, Caroline? Why do you think I’ve avoided you all this time? I knew you were looking for me, sweetheart. You thought you wanted to repair what we had, but I didn’t want to see the disgust in your eyes when you remembered what you’d made me.”

“I’m not disgusted.”

She involuntarily took a sharp breath as his hands went in the direction of the guns strapped to his hips. He raised an eyebrow at her as he slipped them in his pockets instead, and she relaxed, watching him warily. “And that’s what I mean, Caroline. You’re horrified by what I’ve become.”

She rolled her eyes so hard that it hurt, frustration swelling within her. “I don’t think you’re disgusting or horrifying or anything like that. I think that you’re making the best out of a bad situation that I put you in. I might have always disagreed with a lot of the things you’ve done, but I like to think that I understand you, and I’ve never thought of you like that.”

“And yet,” he said, gesturing vaguely at the weapons on his belt before stuffing his hand back in his pocket, and she pressed her lips together, not sure how to respond. “For what it’s worth, sweetheart, I can assure you that I may be a high-functioning psychopath, but I would never hurt you.”

“You’re not a psychopath,” she said, meeting his eyes confidently. “You’re a person who copes with doing terrible things by justifying with an inaccurate self-diagnosis.”

“If you say so, Doctor,” he said dryly.

“Don’t call me that,” she said, her throat tightening.

“If you insist, sweetheart.”

She shivered at the genuine fondness in his tone, at the way he looked at her, his eyes suddenly filled with the kind of warmth that had made her feel so safe during the fall.

 


Five years ago...


 

Caroline stiffened with her spoonful of ice cream halfway to her mouth when she heard the sound of stumbling and a crash outside the door to her and Klaus’s apartment. She bit her lip, listening for more movement, wincing as she realized the ice cream was dripping onto the glossy pages of the medical journal she’d been perusing. She heard a familiar groan through the door along with the sound of someone fumbling with their keys, and she set the ice cream and journal aside.

“Klaus?” she called, wiping her sticky hands on her sweatpants as she stood.

“Let me in, sweetheart?”

He sounded pained, and she hurried to the door, her mouth dropping open when she saw him. There was a drip of blood running down his chin from between his lips and his eye was swollen shut. “Oh my god! What did you do?”

“I do enjoy how you’re automatically assuming it was my fault.”

“That’s not what I meant,” she said exasperatedly, closing the door after him when he crossed the threshold. “I just meant that you look like you got on a bastion’s bad side.”

“It was Stefan, if you must know.”

Stefan did this to you?” she asked, torn between disbelief and anger at their friend.

“He did. I’d forgotten how good of a fighter he was. It’s been quite a while since we’ve sparred.”

“This doesn’t look like sparring,” Caroline said, shoving her feelings aside so that she could concentrate on patching him up, gently cupping his cheek to guide him to look at her, trying not to disturb his eye injury as she checked to see if his other eye could focus. “Take off your shirt so I can look at you.”

He hissed in pain as he reached for the hem of his shirt. “Never mind. I’ll do it,” she said, gently pressing him down onto the couch and getting her medical kit from the kitchen cabinet, returning and setting it on the side table. She bent over him with the medical scissors, cutting through the cloth of his shirt and wincing at the ugly half-closed wound on his upper arm.

“Oh god...Klaus...”

“He was in a temper, as you can tell,” he said quietly.

“And he took it out on you? What is this?” she demanded, pointing at a jagged edge of metal sticking out from the wound in his arm.

“Just a grenade, sweetheart. It’s not too bad."

“Not too bad,” she muttered under her breath. “Any other injuries? Other than the shrapnel under your skin, the black eye, the split lip and what’s probably internal bleeding, judging by how much pain you seem to be in when you move your arms?”

“Caroline...”

“Don’t make me get my suit to diagnose you. You know I will.”

He sighed, the sharp breath deteriorating into a sputtering cough, some blood dribbling down his lip. “Just those and what I suspect is a sprain in my leg. Nothing major.”

“Nothing major?” she bit out. “God, when I get my hands on him...”

“He got off worse sweetheart, believe me.”

“Yeah, well unfortunately I’m not all that motivated to patch him up. He’ll have to deal with it himself.”

“Out to defend my honor, love?” he asked with a grin.

“What were you fighting about?” she countered, knowing that though she was on Team Klaus by default, it was entirely possible that he was in the wrong.

“The way the organization’s being run,” Klaus said bluntly, grimacing as she pressed a medicated cloth to his swollen eye. “He’s being too passive. The UN is opening an investigation, and he needs to stop them before they catch wind of some of our long-term plans. Granted, they do look rather unsavory on paper, but I’m confident they’ll get the results we’re after.”

“I know about the investigation. Anyway, that’s not the point. This thing with Stefan doesn’t sound like a fight that needed to end in violence. You couldn’t just, I don’t know, talk it out? Like adults? Hold this against your eye with your good arm.”

He grunted in response to her suggestion, holding the ice pack to his injured eye, and she resisted the urge to let out a long-suffering sigh.

Klaus wasn’t really the talk-it-out type. She’d long teased him about loving the sound of his own voice when it came to stories and art and history, but as soon as the conversation approached anything remotely related to His Feelings he’d close down. Even when they were alone he preferred to express himself through small touches and heated glances, if not through his lips on her skin. With others he often resorted to icy glares and clipped explanations when irritated, and Caroline had long since resigned herself to being a part-time Klaus Interpreter.

“You and Stefan have been friends for like, ten years. I think he’s earned an honest explanation, at least. Drink this. It should stop your mouth from bleeding.”

Klaus downed the tonic in one gulp, gagging rather theatrically at the taste, and she rolled her eyes. “Oh, stop being a baby. You’ll be fine.”

“Where’s my vengeful guardian angel that was here just a moment ago?”

She scoffed. “Still here, but deeply unappreciative of you whining about the taste of medicine. It’s supposed to taste bad. That way people are less likely to take it for fun.”

“Do you lecture all your patients like this, sweetheart?”

She rolled her eyes, tugging his injured arm towards her, and he hissed in pain. “You’re not my patient, you’re my boyfriend. I need to put on the healing inhibition serum now, and it might sting a little.”

He flinched when she began to massage it into his skin, gritting his teeth, and she sighed. “It’ll be a lot easier to pull the shrapnel out if your skin stops trying to knit itself over it.”

“Could you at least be a bit more gentle, love?”

“Seriously? It’s not like I’m trying to hurt you. I just need to get to the point where I can use the numbing cream.”

“I don’t think you are. The shrapnel is just exceptionally painful.”

“I wouldn’t know,” she said, slowing her movements down slightly. The medicated cloth fell to the floor as he grabbed her wrist with his uninjured hand, his thumb brushing against her palm.

“You never will,” he said, looking at her with serious eyes, and she smiled slightly, bending to kiss him lightly on the cheek before reaching for the numbing cream and silently rubbing it in, watching to make sure his body relaxed as it took effect. She picked up the cloth again and handed it to Klaus as she sat on the couch beside him.

“Lie down,” she ordered, and he laid back with his head in her lap, pressing the compress to his eye as she bent over the wound, running her fingers lightly through his hair. “Close your eyes. It’ll hurt less if you’re not expecting it.”

“That’s a filthy lie, sweethe— fuck, Caroline .”

“All done,” she said cheerfully, pulling a cloth bandage from the medical kit and pouring a few drops of healing serum on it before securely wrapping it around his arm. “You did so good.”

“I’m not a child, Caroline.”

She laughed quietly. “Could have fooled me. You should probably learn to use your words when you’re fighting with your friends.”

“Stefan threw the first punch,” he muttered, and she snorted.

“Not an excuse. Seriously. You guys need to work this out.”

“I have a plan,” he said.

“Good,” she said. “The people heading the investigation called me in for my testimony next week, so whatever you’re doing...” she trailed off, and he gave her an understanding smile.

“What day?”

“Tuesday at nine.”

“All right,” he said quietly, pulling himself up to sit. “Let’s talk about what you’re allowed to know, then.”

“Not now. You need rest,” she said, getting off the couch and closing the medical kit. “Go to bed. I’ll put this stuff away and make you some tea. Okay?”

“You don’t need to fuss over me, Caroline. I’m perfectly all right.”

“Doctor’s orders,” she said, giving him a look that indicated that she meant business.

“I thought I wasn’t one of your patients?” he asked with a dimpled grin.

“You’re not, but I’m your girlfriend, and I strongly advise you stay in my good books.”

“Noted,” he said dryly, standing up.

“Go! I’ll be right there.”

He pressed a soft kiss to her cheek and made his way to their bedroom. She found her thoughts wandering as she washed the chemicals from her hands and hit the button on the kettle to heat up some water for tea. She hoped that this fight with Stefan was temporary. She’d known that the investigation had been causing strain between them, but she hadn’t realized that it had gotten this bad. After pouring the steaming tea into two mugs, she brought them back to the bedroom and handed one to him before climbing onto her side of the bed with the other.

“Promise me you’ll try to resolve this with Stefan,” she said quietly. “There’s enough fighting going on already.”

“I’ll do my best to make him see sense, sweetheart.”

She sensed that that was about as good of a promise as she was going to get and let the subject drop for now, taking a sip of her tea and snuggling into his side.

“I’m glad you’re okay,” she whispered.

He hummed, wrapping his arm around her shoulders, his fingers fiddling with the ends of her hair as he held his mug in his other hand. “I’ll concede to resting tonight, but I do want to talk about the deposition tomorrow, all right?”

“I’m sure it won’t be that bad,” she said, her voice quivering as she set her mug aside. “I mean, Stefan’s girlfriend is on the investigation team, right? She wouldn’t turn him over.”

Klaus shifted beside her. “I don’t like her.”

“You don’t like anyone.”

“I don’t trust her,” he amended. “She seems like the type to sell us out, and you must admit love, between the controversial research you’re doing and my unorthodox methods of halting vigilante crime, we have quite a bit more at risk than Stefan should some of the more unpleasant things come to light.”

She nodded. The things they’d been using Overwatch funds for weren’t exactly endeavours they’d be proud to have announced to the world. Her research had been proven to save lives, but in order to conduct it she had to try to convince people who had very little chance of survival to let her try experimental cures. It was dangerous, but it had paid off with various safe treatments and new medicines. However, she doubted the committee would see that part of it, instead focusing on her performing scientific experiments on people who were about to die. Caroline knew that as much as she tried to pretend otherwise, there was a distinct possibility that one or both of them would be arrested after the investigation, and possibly convicted. He seemed to sense her thoughts, and he pressed a soft kiss to her temple. “I won’t let anyone hurt you, all right? You’re safe.”

She didn’t doubt him. Caroline had never felt safer than she did when she was with Klaus, though she could appreciate the irony of feeling the most secure in the arms of a mass-murderer.

“I love you,” she said quietly, and he shifted to pull her closer, setting his cup on the side table and turning off the lamp before they settled into bed, tangled together.  

“And I you, sweetheart.”

They were quiet for a moment before she spoke again. “I’m scared,” she admitted, the fear somehow easier to voice in the dark, and Klaus pulled her against him, his hand rubbing her back.

“As am I,” he said quietly, and that, more than anything, made her uneasy.

 

XXX

 

Caroline was fuming as she stomped towards the hospital from the briefing room across the base. How dare they assume that Klaus was the source of all the corruption in the organization? He wasn’t the most respectable-looking person on paper, sure, but they didn’t know him like she did, nor did they know Stefan. Honestly she wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the entire investigation was Stefan’s fault. In his determination to do The Right Thing he was often too honest with people, and if he’d put them all in danger...

Well, she’d seriously consider breaking her vow of pacifism.

She paused when she heard heated voices from the wing attached to the hospital, which held a few meeting rooms and a sparring center. Frowning, she shifted directions, throwing open the door to the wing and heading in the direction of the voices who she now recognized as Stefan and Klaus.

“All I’m saying, mate, is that perhaps you shouldn’t have spilled your secrets to the UN Ambassador during your pillow talk.”

“Don’t bring Elena into this. It’s not like Caroline doesn’t know her share of confidential information.”

“Caroline’s an agent ,” Klaus said stiffly. “She has a right to that information, and I’ll thank you to practice what you preach and leave her out of it.”

“Well it’s hard to do that when you’re being so loud,” Caroline said as she walked in, closing the door behind her, her eyes widening when she saw that Stefan was drawing his blaster from the holster he wore around his torso.

“Put it away,” Klaus said, his voice dangerously quiet as he drew his own weapon, moving slightly so that he was in front of her.

“It’s fine, Klaus,” Caroline said soothingly, taking a step towards him. “Stefan won’t hurt me.”

“You sure about that, love?”

She sighed, taking another step to stand beside him, but he threw an arm out to block her. “Stay behind me.”

“You both need to calm down,” she said, and Klaus growled.

“He sold us out, sweetheart. Handed over the papers. They know about your research, about the classified missions... They knew before your interview. You could be convicted.”

She felt fear like a punch to the stomach, tears filling her eyes. “Stefan, how could you do that to us?”

“Your research is dangerous, Caroline—”

“It’ll save lives in the end and you know it,” she snapped, interrupting him. “Those people were going to die anyway. They volunteered .”

“—And his missions are dangerous with low payoff.”

“You have no idea what you’re talking about,” Klaus growled, and Caroline’s breath caught as he raised his weapon.

“Klaus, no—”

“You need to leave, mate.”

“I can’t do that. These people need me.”

“What people? Overwatch is being disbanded thanks to you and your idiot bedwarmer.”

“Both of you need to calm down,” Caroline said slowly.

“Caroline, stay behind me.”

“Klaus, what—”

There was a gunshot and a deafening blast of an explosion. Caroline found herself pushed to the ground, Klaus shielding her with his body. She had no idea which man had fired, but when she carefully extricated herself from underneath Klaus’s body, she found herself overwhelmed by the amount of damage that had been done to the room. The debris were covering the floor, dust rising in puffs in the air, and she looked around to see if Stefan was alright, but didn’t see him anywhere. She turned back to Klaus, intending to help him up, but saw the blood quickly spreading across his shirt. “Oh, god,” she muttered, dropping to her knees beside him, her heart pounding as she pressed down on his wound, tears springing to her eyes. She hadn’t bothered to put on her suit for the interview, something she was regretting now, and she fought down her panic as she scrambled for Klaus’s communicator.

“Tracer,” she said desperately, hearing the beeps indicating it was connecting.

“What, Klaus?”

“It’s Caroline. You have to come to the sparring wing of the hospital as fast as you can.”

“What—”

“Now, Bon,” Caroline barked, shutting off the communicator and letting it fall out of her blood-smeared hands.

It was barely seconds before Bonnie appeared in front of her, her eyes widening as she took in the remains of the room after the explosion. “What happened?”

“Get me a gurney.”

“Do you want me to call—”

“No. Don’t tell anyone, and go get me a gurney.”

Bonnie seemed to want to object to Caroline’s tone, but after a quick glance at Klaus’s rapidly paling skin she flashed off, returning moments later pulling a stretcher behind her. “Thank you,” Caroline said, managing a smile. “Help me get him up, please? And then if you could flash to my house and get my suit...”

“No problem,” Bonnie said, helping Caroline lift Klaus onto the stretcher. “I’ll meet you in the emergency wing?”

Caroline hesitated for a brief second before shaking her head. “My lab.”

“Okay. See you in a minute.”

By the time Caroline had wheeled Klaus to her lab, Bonnie had brought the Valkyrie suit and was flashing in with seemingly random emergency equipment. “I don’t know what anything does, so I just brought whatever I could.”

“Thanks,” Caroline said distractedly, pulling the suit into place and checking his pulse. It was weak enough to make her heart drop to the pit of her stomach.

“Can’t you just...” Bonnie trailed off, making a vague motion with her hand, and Caroline bit back her retort that if she could have used her technology to resurrect him, she would have done it already.

“It’s more complicated than that,” she said as she moved her hand over his body so that her suit could scan for hidden injuries. “Resurrection can only be done within a few seconds of death, and I can’t let him die hoping it’ll work. It’s too big of a risk.”

Bonnie was silent for a moment before she spoke again. “Is there something I can do to help?”

“Yeah. If you could start that machine over there and put the pad over his wound; it’ll stop the bleeding for now.”

“Got it,” Bonnie said, flashing to the sleek beeping screen that was attached to a pad on the end of a tube and dragging it over before hitting the power button.

Caroline felt a rush of gratitude for her friend’s help.

“Thank you, Bonnie,” she said, and Bonnie gave her a small smile before removing the flat round pad from the side of the machine and placing it over Klaus’s wound, holding it in place.

Caroline hurried to the cabinet where she kept her chemical compounds and opened it, trying to figure out what to do. She had an experimental treatment that might help him heal, but she hadn’t tested it on humans yet, and she also wasn’t sure if it would conflict with the genetic modifications from the supersoldier program. Still, it was her best shot, she decided, knowing Klaus had a few minutes at most. She loaded a syringe, the liquid swirling in the vial almost like smoke, and she hurried back, stabbing it into his side and forcing the liquid into his bloodstream.

“Now we wait,” Caroline said, the adrenaline wearing off quickly as Klaus laid still and pale on the stretcher.

“How about I get you an air mattress,” Bonnie said awkwardly, and Caroline gave her a small smile.

“I can get him to a private hospital room once he’s stable enough, but thank you.”

“Do you want to be alone?” Bonnie asked, and Caroline hesitated before nodding.

“Promise me you’ll keep this a secret.”

“Why?”

“Trust me,” Caroline said imploringly.

“I do,” Bonnie said immediately, as though it hadn’t taken a single thought, and Caroline smiled, letting Bonnie pull her into a tight hug before there was a soft ‘pop’ and Bonnie flashed away.

She waited until Klaus’ vital signs were stable before rolling the gurney to one of the private rooms, watching as his breathing evened. Once she was certain he would live, she carefully moved him into the hospital bed and gave into the heavy exhaustion, crawling onto the lumpy mattress beside him and falling asleep.

 

XXX

 

When she woke, it took her barely a second to realize the bed was cold, and she scrambled out from under the covers to look around the room, which was mostly untouched. Where was he? Panic gripped her tightly, and she hurried out of the room to look in the hallway, immediately relaxing when she saw a familiar form standing in the doorway of a patient’s room a few doors down.

She frowned, walking towards Klaus, who whirled around before she could get any closer, his eyes wild. “Caroline,” he said, his voice hoarse.

She launched herself at him, burying her face in his neck tightening her grip when he wrapped his arms around her. “You nearly died,” she said, her voice cracking. “I’m so happy you’re okay.”

She pulled back, and he gave her a grim smile. “I wouldn’t go that far, sweetheart.”

“What do you mean?”

He hesitated before gently pulling away and stepping to the side, gesturing at the person in the hospital bed.

The corpse in the hospital bed.

“What happened?” she breathed, running towards the bed and checking the patient’s pulse, panicking to find it gone. She’d told the family he would be okay. He just needed a day or two of rest...

“I woke up and I was...ravenous,” he said quietly, and she turned to face him. His expression was carefully blank, his posture stiff, and she took a step towards him.

“What do you mean?”

“I needed...I felt empty, and I just knew that the only way to stay alive was to kill.”

“To kill?” Caroline asked sharply, her mind racing. What had she done to him?

He swallowed, meeting her eyes, his posture straight. “Yes. I killed him and I felt better.”

“Maybe it’s psychological,” Caroline said hopefully. “Maybe it’s from trauma. I don’t think you need to live off killing people--”

“I’m certain of it,” he said firmly, reaching out his hand to create a ball of purple smoke that was somehow glowing in the fluorescent hospital lights.

“What’s that?”

“The energy of the man I just strangled to death,” he said quietly. “After I took it, the hunger ceased.”

She felt thrown off-kilter, suddenly a bit light headed, and she stared at Klaus. “You can’t,” she said, her voice choking around the words as she shook her head in denial.

“I did, Caroline. Don’t pretend you didn’t know I was a murderer.”

“Not like this. You weren’t like this.”

God, if he was right, she’d injected him with something that made him live off of murder. She felt nausea build in her stomach, and he watched as she backed up against the wall, overwhelmed by her realization.

“You’re scared of me,” he said quietly.

“No, I just...I turned you into a monster,” she whispered, and he flinched, his eyes widening slightly before he froze, completely stoic, and she winced. “I didn’t mean for it to come out like that, Klaus. I--”

“Of course you meant it,” he said tersely. “I understand, Caroline. No need to explain. You’re disgusted by me.”

“No, I’m not!” she argued, wringing her hands. “Klaus, I’d never--”

“Don’t protest. I see it in the way you look at me,” he said quietly.

“Klaus--”

“Goodbye, Caroline,” he said, his voice cold, and he was suddenly gone, leaving a puff of smoke where he’d just been standing.

She felt her insides go cold. She was glad he was alive, but there was no doubt that she’d seriously fucked up. It didn’t help that the government would undoubtedly be after him not only for crimes against humanity, but also for the string of murders he’d have to commit to stay alive.

 

XXX

 

“This won’t hurt,” she said, trying to sound soothing as she drew her staff down the man’s stomach, a golden light bathing his skin before the wound slowly scabbed over. “Stay here and rest. If you have any side effects, you can call the hospital and ask for me.”

“Thank you,” he whispered, and she gave him a small smile as she packed up her medical kit.

In the two years since she’d technically become a fugitive, she’d traveled from city to city, trying to help people who were sick or injured, and no one had turned her in so far. The committee hadn’t publicly acknowledged all of the research she’d done (most likely because they wanted to keep the end results for themselves), and she was therefore generally considered to be a martyr who took the fall for her long-time boyfriend, who was presumed dead. She suspected that the team assigned to track down rogue Overwatch agents wasn’t trying all that hard to find her, most likely not wanting to have to deal with the public outrage of arresting a war heroine who simply fell in love with the wrong man.

The idea of that being her and Klaus’s story still struck her as funny, and it had been two years.

She paused when she saw a news story on one of of the billboards nearby. It was silent but subtitled, and her breath caught when she read the newscaster’s words as he spoke.

...The vigilante known as Reaper has struck again, murdering several known members of the disbanded Overwatch organization. This is his third assault that seems to have been specifically targeted towards previous members of Overwatch. Police are still trying to uncover the man behind the mask, and if anyone has any information, we urge them to contact their local law enforcement...”

Caroline sighed at the footage, the man’s walk unquestionably familiar as he shot three men in quick succession and turned to shoot the security camera just after. Everyone else thought he’d died in the explosion, but she’d known Klaus was Reaper since the first video was released. She’d been turning up places where he’d last appeared, looking for clues to where he’d head next. She didn’t stay long, always moving to a different location just afterwards, knowing that it was only a matter of time until authorities found out that Reaper was Klaus and then linked her to him, therefore putting her on the run in practice rather than in theory.

She continued down the street, knowing that it would draw too much attention to spread her suit’s wings, but wishing she didn't have to walk. She heard someone running behind her, and stepped to the side thinking they were a jogger, but the footsteps stopped behind her, and she felt the cold metal of a gun pressed to her neck.

“I’ve been looking for you, Mercy,” said a nasally voice.

The voice didn’t sound at all familiar, and that worried her. “Why?” she asked quietly, trying not to seem too threatening as she tried to figure out what they could want and how she was going to get out of it.

“Reaper killed my brother.”

Seriously?

“What does that have to do with me?” she asked, playing dumb.

“I hear you and Reaper were close.”

“That was years ago,” she said.

It was true, after all.

“Love has long memories, Blondie.”

Christ...

She restrained a sarcastic comment, instead debating whether she should spread her wings and try to dodge the bullet in flight.

“I’m going to need you to come with me.”

“Why?” she asked, and she heard the smirk in the man’s voice when he spoke.

“Klaus-bait.”

Before she’d taken a step, she heard the sound of a laser gun and the man let go of her, falling to the ground. Caroline turned to face her savior and was unable to restrain a smile when she saw who was behind her.

“You looked like you could use a little help,” Bonnie said as Caroline attacked her with a hug.

“Thank you,” Caroline said, pulling away. “How are you? I haven’t seen you since—”

“Not here,” Bonnie said firmly. “Come on. I’m staying in a hotel near here.”

They walked in silence, Caroline sensing that her friend was working up to saying something, and she was proven right when Bonnie closed the hotel room door behind them, locking it. “I kept your secret.”

“Thank you,” Caroline said softly, perching on the bed.

“I know he’s Reaper, Caroline.”

Caroline bit her lip, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. “Yeah.”

“When his kills are caught on camera, it looks like he draws some kind of smoke out of their bodies and then absorbs it.”

“What, you think he’s living off other people’s life forces or something?” Caroline said, hoping  that Bonnie wouldn’t connect the dots between the killing and the serum she’d injected him with.

“The current theory is that he survives by killing.”

Caroline swallowed, looking down at her hands. “Do you think it’s true?”

Bonnie was quiet for a few seconds, each one seeming to last an eternity, before Caroline felt the mattress dip as Bonnie sat down next to her. “I think that no matter what the reality is, there’s no excuse for him going out of his way to kill people, especially agents who used to be our friends.”

Stefan’s friends,” Caroline corrected. “They sided with him during the investigation, and they tried to turn us in.”

“That’s still not an excuse to kill them.”

“I never said it was. Klaus functions with a different moral compass than we do. What he does is wrong, but you can’t say you didn’t expect it, especially after what they did to him. To both of us.”

“You should talk to him.”

“He hates me, Bonnie. He told me not to try to find him, and if he was open to talking to me he would have left clues or come to me himself.”

“Why do you think he hates you because you did that to him?”

“Bonnie,” Caroline squeaked, but Bonnie grabbed her hand.

“Caroline, he was a murderer before you injected him with whatever that smoke serum was. You didn’t make him this way.”

“That’s not true. It’s my fault,” Caroline said.

Bonnie pressed her lips together in a thin line. “Okay, so maybe you shouldn’t have saved him, but you did. After that, everything was his choice. He could have gone to a prison and murdered all the inmates. He had choices, Caroline.”

Caroline resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Bonnie tended to see things in a very binary manner. Good and evil. Right and wrong. No in-between; no gray areas. She’d clearly decided Klaus was the bad one in the situation and that Caroline should try to call him off of what he was doing.

“Just try, Care. Please.”

Caroline sighed. “It’ll take awhile, especially if he figures out I’m really looking for him.”

“As long as you’re trying,” Bonnie said.

“I’ll do my best,” Caroline muttered, knowing that her best would not solve the problem.

 


Present


 

 

They were both silent for awhile, the lack of sound almost grating by the time he spoke again. “We’re not so different, Caroline.”

She frowned at the abrupt change of subject, and he smiled slightly before continuing, taking a few steps towards her, his hands still in his pockets as the metal of his guns clinked together on his belt. “You, my lovely little hypocrite, were willing to go after what you wanted regardless of the consequences to those around you. You have no remorse for what you’ve done to me, or to the innocent around you, as long as my heart still beats.”

A surge of anger hit her, and her hands curled into fists. “Of course I feel guilty about it! How could I not when you’re forced to take the innocent lives I promised to protect?” she bit out, and he laughed again, this time just a bit more cruelly.

“Guilt, I’m sure. But remorse? If you could go back in time, would you do it any differently?”

She fought away the hot tears blooming in her eyes at his words, and she shook her head, swallowing.

“Selfish,” he repeated. “But I am thankful that I was the purpose you put your morals aside for.”

“It’s not selfish to save other people.”

He raised an eyebrow, gesturing at the corpses at their feet, and she looked away, unable to stomach the blankness in their eyes. “Fine,” she whispered. “So maybe I knew that the serum could go wrong. I knew that... that saving you wasn’t the right thing to do, but you don’t get it , Klaus, I--”

“You don’t think I would have done the same thing in your place?” he asked sharply. “Of course I understand, Caroline. If it had been you bleeding out on the floor and I’d had the means I would have done whatever it took.”

“You don’t hate me?” she asked, her voice shaky, resisting the urge to wipe away the tears that were now escaping her eyes. “For doing this to you?”

He moved towards her and she was suddenly hit by the familiar scent of fresh pine and mint and musk that had made him home for all of those years. When he reached out and cupped her face, she leaned into his touch, closing her eyes as his thumb brushed along her cheekbone, catching a stray tear.

“Not at all, sweetheart,” he said softly, his other arm curling around her waist. “I’m simply saying that you have no high horse to mount.”

She hiccuped out a laugh, pressing herself against him and burying her face in his neck. He was warm, his arms a comforting weight around her waist as he pulled her close, and the medical equipment built into her Valkyrie suit automatically detected his pulse, which thumped rhythmically in her ear.

“Okay. You scared me.”

“You thought I’d hate you?”

“Of course! I literally altered your genetic code to make you live off other people’s souls .”

“Yes, but I have to grant you, it’s useful.”

“Useful?”

“You can’t possibly think you’d have survived this long being hunted by the masses if you hadn’t had a little help,” he said.

“Oh my god... Seriously?”

“I couldn’t let you die,” he said simply.

“You can’t just kill innocent people to protect me, Klaus,” she said exasperatedly, pulling back to look at him, the argument so familiar and so oddly right that she felt more like herself than she had in years.

They were so close, his breath hot on her lips as he spoke, and she felt a shiver run down her spine at the heat of his palms against her lower back. “They’re hardly innocent. Civilians, yes, but do not doubt for a moment that they would have killed you if they’d had the chance.”

“But--”

“I won’t apologize for using my powers to protect you, Caroline. Do not try to force me to.”

His voice was hard, holding no room for argument, and she sighed. “I don’t want your protection,” she said, knowing he’d insist.

“But you need it,” he said, his voice oddly gentle. “And you have it.”

“As long as you’ll let me take care of you afterwards,” she said after a few seconds, and he laughed quietly.

“I do not need your medical assistance any longer, love. You made sure of that the day I woke after the operation.”

Her shoulders slumped, and she hesitated before she spoke, her voice wavering slightly. “I’ll fix you.”

“You will do no such thing. I like who I am now, sweetheart. My only hesitation was what you’d think of me, and you’ve made it clear that your feelings for me have endured.”

“They have, yeah,” she said, shifting in his arms a bit uncomfortably, suddenly needing to hear the words from him, to reassure her that he didn’t hate her for what she’d done. “And what about you?”

“What about me?” he asked, and she scowled at his teasing.

“How do you feel about me?”

His eyes were warm and earnest as his hand trailed up her spine to play with the ends of her hair. “Never doubt that I’ve always loved you, Caroline.”